Best Smart Clothing – A Look at Smart Fabrics 2016
Technology is evolving to take over everything around us, in fact, it is already on us. Smart fabrics are no longer a reserve for sci-fi music such as Will Smith’s critically unacclaimed ‘After Earth’. Big companies and new startups are already jostling to design and make smart clothing that leverage technology to make our lives better, easier, and more colourful. Most of today’s smart fabrics are yet to enter the mass market, but they already exist, and new and advanced ones are always incubating in some R&D lab somewhere.
Also known as smart textile or e-fabrics, smart clothing come in all kinds of types and with different features and outlooks. The common factor, however, is that they are made to observe to the wearer, and to react to environmental conditions including chemical, mechanical, electrical, chemical, and magnetic, etc. Intelligent fabrics have digital components, sensors, actuators, circuits, and computers embedded in them to collect, process and output data in different ways.
Our top best smart clothing focus on announced intelligent fabrics and clothing that help the wearer live a better life e.g. accomplish a task or survive.
1. Wearable Solar & Solar Garment Dress
Fashion brand Pauline van Dongen is the brains behind the Wearable Solar T-Shirt and other pieces of clothing, which, as you can deduce from its name, are inspired by solar-powered technology. The T-Shirt was inspired by the need to maintain continuous connectivity, especially while outdoors.
This one-of-a-kind smart fabric could be considered as one of the first ‘eco-friendly’ garments as it harnesses the energy of the sun and enables the wearer to charge his/her phone, music players, and other powered electronic devices.
With battery capacity being one of the greatest hindrances to portable technology today, these dresses and shirts are aimed to provide a solution to one of the biggest problems tech-savvy people face today—getting more juice for their devices on the go.
The smart textiles have tiny interconnected solar cells that recharge tiny batteries embedded in the cloth. The wearer of this dress would never have to worry about rushing home before smartphone, tablet, or iPod battery runs out.
Lady Gaga’s former stylist Nicola Formichetti was also rumoured to be working on a Solar Garment Dress in 2013.
2. Smart Shirt / D-Shirt
One of the most impressive wearable technologies already available in the market is the Smart Shirt designed and made by French company Cityzen Sciences. After over six years of development, the Smart Shirt, also known as D-Shirt (digital shirt) features quite a number of inbuilt devices including a heart rate monitor, accelerometer, built-in GPS, and altimeter among others.
The shirt connects to smartphones, tablets, and other devices through Bluetooth and can share the wearer’s physical location and bodily data for analysis. What makes the D-Shirt an even more impressive smart fabric is that the next generation production is expected to feature carbon fibre contact points to improve the efficiency of collecting heart rate and electrocardiogram (ECG) information.
The biggest clients of Cityzen Sciences at the moment are sports teams who rely on the accurate data the fabric collects about a player to improve their performance in training and playing in sports activities such as football, basketball, swimming, and track athletics. The Smart Shirt also has impressed health, trucking, broadcasting and insurance companies among others who have discovered how beneficial the data it collects about the human body can be.
3. Stridalyzer Smart Insoles for Athletes
Designed by ReTiSense, Stridalyzer is a smart wearable insole for athletes who want to leverage new technologies embedded apparel to improve their running form, avoid exercise injury, and perform better in sports. This intelligent clothing quantifies and tracks the wearer’s running, collecting data using sensors embedded in the insoles and sending it to a smartphone connected via Bluetooth for real-time analysis. The Stridalyzer has a smartphone application that analyses the data collected by sensors inside the insoles, which measure and store stress information and compares it with those of other runners with similar body structure including foot size, weight, height, and size among others.
Perhaps the best thing about Stradalyzer is that it is attentive in monitoring the athlete’s performance with the aim of preventing possible injury. The sensors on the insole take measurements of pressure and impact that the foot experiences on the foot and knees, data which the app is programmed to analyse and use to prevent injuries. The idea of this smart wearable came from two injured runners from India, who simply wanted to run without risking injuries. The connected insoles have exceeded their target funding target on Kickstarter and have already made public their shipping date and progress of mass production.
4. Lumos Smart Bicycle Helmet
Lumos is the ultimate bicycle helmet featuring all a biker needs to have to be safe and visible while on the road—brake lights and turn signals. With 14 super bright white LED to shine the front and 16 in the rear to provide illumination, a biker would not have to worry about safety while on the road. This helmet does not just bring illumination and indication features, it is also an awesome connected wearable with a built-in accelerometer that measures the cyclist’s speed and uses advanced algorithms to turn on the red brake lights.
With a battery life of over a week based on 30-minute use a day, the Lumos smart cyclist helmet is an ideal accessory for passionate and hobbyist cyclists, especially those that cite safety as the greatest hindrance to getting on the road. The helmet, which meets the cycle helmet standards in the US and Europe, is water resistant and weighs less than half a kilogramme. Lumos initially sought to raise $125,000 on Kickstarter by it bagged over $800,000 by the end of the campaign. This amazing next generation helmet is not available for pre-order at a price of just $99.
5. Project POLE’s Tracky – Smart Sportswear
2015 has been the year that smart clothes took off. Among the names that dominated the headlines are ProjectPOLE, the company that is developing Tracky. Tracky is a project of smart clothes that include smart T-shirts, sweaters, and coveralls fitted with sensors for people who are physically active. Tracky has sensors embedded in them to read and transmit information on the state of the wearer’s body and its activities in real time. The clothing is fitted with numerous “Boost Pad” sensors that measure body data and transmits it to a connected smartphone for analysis and reporting during a workout or play session.
According to the creators, Tracky can recognise up to 126 different types of yoga exercises, 186 workout motions, and as many as 198 types of sports based on the wearer’s body movements and performance. The data is collected from body temperature, respiration, and burning calories. The smartphone application further provides advice based on recordings of a session on how the wearer can improve performance, how to improve efficiency, the degree of mobility, and progress information. When it hits the shelves, a Tracky kit that includes a t-shirt and trousers with over ten interchangeable sensors and a strap will sell for $179 (or ca. £116).
6. Ping Dress – Smart Clothes
How smart can a fabric get? Hot in the trails of other smart wearable technologies, the Ping Dress by Electricfoxy (the company who brought us the Pulse Smart Ring) puts Facebook and Twitter on you. This dress is an electronic wonder that the wearer can use to stay connected with friends and family on Facebook as well as update followers on Twitter simply by performing programmable gestures built into the garment’s mechanics. For instance, tieing a bow could compose a tweet, lifting the cloth’s hood could like a post, pressing the top button could retweet, and swinging the left arm could share a post. Facebooking and Tweeting are now possible without a laptop, tablet, smartphone, smart ring, or any portable device—just your dress.
The Ping Dress is also designed to bring you smartphone and tablet notifications without you having to reach for them. The smart garment features innovative haptic devices that subtly ‘tap’ the wearer’s shoulder when there is a push notification. When a friend comments on a post, when a new email comes in when someone favourites your tweet, or when there is an incoming call, you would not need to have a smartphone or computer with you to know; you will just ‘feel’ it.
7. Move Garment Dress
For those who are not aware fashion designer Ying Gao created the Move Garment Dress, as one of his smart pioneer wearables. This is a dress that writhes around the wearer and can even light up when someone stares at it. The dress features eye-tracking sensors that detect and tracks a spectator when staring. The dress also has electronic circuits that enable the wearer to perform various actions including turning off the lights.
One of the best things about this dress is that it can illuminate in the dark, which would come in handy when crossing the road when getting home in the dark, or when dancing and want to mesmerise an audience with hypnotising illumination patterns.
The outer layer of the Move Garment Dress is covered with tendrils of photo-luminescent threads dangling from the smart fabric. The base layer is made from glow-in-the-dark threads fabric cut into small ribbons and loosely bunched over the top. It truly is a magical dress to wear and a promising smart fabric that the wearer can use to communicate without saying a word.
8. Synapse Smart Dress
Designed by Anouk Wipprecht, the Synapse smart dress is one of the newest smart clothing demonstrating the amazing, and unlimited possibilities technology can bring. This is a 3D printed dress that is powered by an Intel Edison microprocessor and is fitted with biosensors to take all kinds of bodily and environmental measurements. It is an interactive dress that is engineered to react to the body’s electrical impulses with a focus on the wearer’s experiences.
This smart fabric also features a proximity sensor that can detect when someone gets too close and reacts by setting off an array of bright 120W LED lights. It also has a front camera that records the objects, people, and situations that affect the wearer’s moods and has a matching headpiece that monitors attention levels. Quite impressive, don’t you agree?
9. The Intimacy 2.0 Dress
The second generation of the Intimacy Dress actually turns invisible when the wearer’s heart rate rises. The dress, made by Dutch company Studio Roosegarde brings a world of possibilities for wearable technology with the introduction of the fabric that changes colour and visibility with the wearer’s moods. Initially, the dress was made to show how excited the wearer is by turning invisible.
The dress would also light up when the wearer experiences fear, excitement, exertion, or any other heart rate-raising emotion. There are two versions of The Intimacy 2.0 Dress—the Intimacy Black and the Intimacy White. They are both made out of an opaque material that also becomes increasingly transparent with close and personal encounters with people.
Upcoming Smart Fabric Projects
One of the most anticipated smart fabrics of today is the Ralph Lauren Polo Tech shirt, an intelligent wearable tech that tracks the wearer’s vital signs during high-intensity workout and gaming events. It is a nylon shirt infused with a conductive silver-coated fibre laden with sensors that detect and stream data in real time to a smartphone for processing and display.
The Sensoria running socks, whose first generation variant is already in the market, is another smart fabric that tracks an athlete’s runs in detail, collecting data that is useful in determining the wearer’s running style and other details such as distance, pace, and calories burned among others.
Smart Clothing – Honourable Mentions
These pieces of clothing don’t analyse your body’s temperature or track your steps, but are pretty smart nevertheless and therefore deserve a special mention.
1. The Repellent Dress
Gambia-born Matilda Ceesay came up with the smart revolutionary fabric designed to repel mosquitoes using infused insecticide ‘crystals’. Malaria is a very deadly disease that kills close to a million people in Africa every year, a majority of them being children under the age of 5. Considering that mosquitoes spread the disease, a dress specifically designed to repel mosquitoes would be an ideal solution to managing the spread of malaria. The Repellent Dress does just that.
The Repellent Dress is a safe, durable and practical dress that promises to cut the number of deaths spread by mosquitoes and other insects. Matilda’s innovative fabric has triggered a new approach in the fabric research and development industry and shifted the focus of production from protection from diseases to prevention. This smart fabric does not use any power (so, it’s not necessarily “smart” in the way we’re used to); it is, therefore, justifiable to say wearable technology is not constricted to electronic devices.
2. Climachill Shoes and Clothing
Adidas, one of the oldest and most reputable clothing manufacturers in the world, launched its new ‘cool’ collection of Climachill smart clothing early in 2014 in a bid to cement their reputation as industry leaders. Climachill is a range of smart clothing that use aluminium and titanium embedded in the fabric to lower body temperature and give the wearer a ‘chill sensation’ when working out. The technology is developed for athletes and has proven to extend training sessions significantly and boost player performance in physically demanding sporting activities.
Adidas says that its Climachill smart fabric has tiny 3D aluminium cooling spheres mapped to correspond to the hot zones of the body, and the ‘sub-zero’ flat yarn blend delivers as much as 36 percent better cooling capacity than any cooling fabric currently in the market. Considering that cooling is one of the biggest obstacles to the body’s performance in physical tasks (not just sports), the adoption of this smart fabric would mean enhanced performance and increased productivity in manual labour.
3. Adaptive Survival Clothing
The true smart fabric of the future is one that can directly help the wearer survive especially in life-threatening environmental conditions. The Adaptive Survival Clothing developed by Jacqueline Nanne for Wearable Senses, the research unit of the Eindhoven University of Technology aims to do just that. This smart fabric also called ‘the sweater of the future,’ uses moisture and temperature regulation properties of wool to adapt the human body to normal, non-threatening conditions.
The sweater has three layers: an inner layer that responds to body temperature by opening when exercising and closing when resting, the middle insulating layer that is not thermoregulated, and the outer layer that adapts to weather changes by opening and closing. The focus of this smart fabric is on survival, especially in areas where temperatures can get extremely cold or hot. While this project is still in prototype stage, the design promises a much-needed functionality that would be quickly adopted for different uses in different environments.
4. Scough – Smart Scarf
Scough is a New York-based company that came up with a revolutionary idea of a scarf that filters out chemicals, bacteria, viruses, debris, and other wanted elements in the breathable air. This smart fabric is designed to be aesthetically appealing and can be a fashion element you can add to your wardrobe. It is handmade, affordable, and very practical. Ordinary people can use such a fabric would come in handy when visiting polluted and unhygienic places such as fog-filled cities and health professionals can use it when providing services in places affected by airborne diseases.
Scough filters air using a carbon filter and pocket-fitted devices to provide protection against pollution and flu using the same technology that the military uses to protect its fighters in chemical warfare. With all the news about the dangerous levels of pollution brought about by the industrial age, the Scough may be a smart fabric of the future that everyone will want to have to stay alive and healthy.
Smart Clothing – In Conclusion
With smart clothing proving to be invaluable in tracking the body’s biometric data, it is no secret that they are the future of healthcare, sports, and physical performance. These fabrics are also invaluable in how we connect, how we relate to others, and of course, how fashionable we present ourselves to the world. If anything, analysts predict that in thirty to fifty years time, smart fabric and wearables will be the standard clothing just like the way conventional apparel are today. And if this list is anything to go by, then it seems that we will be spoilt for choice as far as this kind of new clothing goes.